Thyroid Changes in Pregnancy/Postpartum and what to do about it?

Written by Alana Mulhall - BHSc Naturopath

We love to think of the thyroid as the ‘master gland’ of our body! The thyroid is the small butterfly-shaped gland, which is locked in the front of your neck. 

The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones (T3 & T4), which affect every cell in our body! 

Our thyroid hormones help to: 

  •     Regulate the rate at which your body uses energy (calories). 
  •     Control your heart rate 
  •     Control your body temperature 
  •     Impacts digestion
  •     Supports brain development

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid): Occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormones. It can be caused by an autoimmune condition known as Grave’s Disease. 

What are the symptoms: 

  • Heart palpitations 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaky hands
  • Weight loss 
  • Anxiety 
  • Increased appetite 
  • Heat intolerance 
  • Difficulty sleeping 

Hypothyroidism (Underactive thyroid): Occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. It can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, stress, other hormonal issues and an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s disease. 

What are the symptoms: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Weight gain 
  • Cold intolerance 
  • Depression 
  • Dry skin 
  • Brittle hair 

Postpartum Thyroiditis: Is an autoimmune condition which causes inflammation of the thyroid. Postpartum thyroiditis can develop in the first year after birth and affects 7-10% of women. 

What are the symptoms? Symptoms can begin as those of hyperthyroidism and then as the damage to the thyroid gland continues to occur symptoms can become those of hypothyroidism. Not all women will experience both hyper and hypothyroid symptoms and may only experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.

How to support thyroid function:  

Get your thyroid checked

If you have been experiencing a number of the above symptoms but you haven’t had your thyroid checked, the first thing to do is have thyroid function blood testing conducted (this includes TSH, T3 & T4). It can be helpful to also assess thyroid antibodies alongside these lab tests to get a comprehensive understanding of your thyroid function. 

Avoid Gluten Containing Foods 

When it comes to autoimmune thyroid conditions, there are several studies that have identified a strong link between coeliac disease and autoimmune thyroid conditions. The connection is due to the structure of the ‘gluten’ protein. This protein structure is similar to the structure of the thyroid gland. 

Stress management techniques 

Stress has been shown to impact thyroid function through multiple mechanisms. Stress slows down thyroid hormone production, increases inflammation, and even impacts nutrient absorption. 

Support Nutrient Status 

Your thyroid needs nutrients like iodine, selenium, iron, B12, zinc and vitamin D to function properly. Without these tools, thyroid function can be impacted. If you’ve already been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, ensure you’ve had these nutrients tested to assess for any underlying deficiencies.

Reduce Toxin Exposure 

Exposure to certain environmental toxins has been shown to negatively impact thyroid function, in particular Chlorine, Fluoride and Bromine. Drinking filtered and using an in-home water filtration system can reduce your exposure to these chemicals. 

 

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